Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Williams, Lakiesha N.

Committee Member

Liao, Jun

Committee Member

Prabhu, Rajkumar

Committee Member

Horstemeyer, Mark F.

Committee Member

Cooley, Avery James

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Biomedical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Military personnel often experience mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) from exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Soldiers typically endure blast trauma from the IED pressure wave as well as blunt trauma from ensuing head impacts. Researchers have not reached a consensus on whether the biomechanical response from blunt or blast trauma plays a more dominant role in mTBI because the specific biomechanical sources of injury are often undetermined. Consequently, the goal of this dissertation was to conduct three separate studies in order to characterize the mechanical behavior of the brain after exposure to mTBI conditions. For Study 1, mild blunt and blast trauma were induced in Sprague-Dawley rats using a custom-built device. In-house diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) software was used to make 3-D reconstructions of white matter fiber tracts before and after injury (1, 4, and 7 days). Axonal integrity was characterized by examining the fiber count, fiber length, and fractional anisotropy (FA). In-house image analysis software also quantified the microstructural variations in Hematoxylin and Eosin (H&E) stained brain sections, where significant differences in parameters such as the area fraction (AF) and nearest neighbor distance (NND) correlated to voids that formed after water diffused extracellularly from axons. Study 2 employed a computational approach involving the development of a finite element (FE) model for the rat head followed by the simulation of blunt and blast trauma, respectively. FE parameters such as von Mises stress, pressure, and maximum principal strain were analyzed at various locations including the skull, cerebral cortex, corpus callosum, and hypothalamus to compare injury cases. Study 3 involved interruption mechanical testing of porcine brain, a suitable animal surrogate of human brain. Compression, tension, and shear experiments were performed at a strain rate of 0.1 s-1 to examine the differential mechanical response. Microstructural changes in H&E stained brain sections were analyzed with in-house image analysis software to quantify differences among stress states at strains of 0.15, 0.30, and 0.40. Studies 1 and 2 confirmed that the brain behaves differently in response to blunt and blast trauma, respectively, while Study 3 further demonstrated the stress state dependent behavior of brain tissue.